One of the questions you will encounter today, whether you are in a corporate setting or a small business is, “How productive are you?” The catch is, if you are not 100% productive, your position will either be made redundant or you will be assigned additional tasks.
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Obviously, you will prefer the second option, which is to be given additional tasks, over the first option, which is to lose your job. If you aren’t used to a high productivity environment, it might be unsettling at first and even tiresome trying to run around making sure that you can complete as many tasks as possible while maintaining your efficiency.
To ensure high productivity, you need to start by first incorporating two very simple concepts into your work efforts. First, give SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based, which first appeared in an article written in 1981 by George T. Doran. This five step process is a simple yet effective tool used by leaders and managers to ensure that goals are met. Second, have a game plan. You cannot begin something without having a concrete plan on what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.
In order to ensure productivity, you have to state the goal clearly. If your team is unclear about the goal, they won’t be able to act accordingly or appropriately. For instance, in an episode of West Wing, which is a political drama series, when a position in the Federal Election Commission opened up President Bartlett said that he would like to “dangle his feet in the water”. His staff went about their day “dangling” their feet and didn’t achieve anything. If President Bartlett was more clear and decisive about what he wanted done, people would have taken it more seriously and known exactly what he wanted achieved at the end of the day.
Having a measureable goal is also important. There should be a basis of whether you are getting closer to your goal or if you have met your goal, which will give you a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. If you say, “Let’s do better” on the next exam, “better” can mean many things. First, if you failed the previous exam miserably, “better” can mean a 50% score from your previous 30% score or a 90% score. Bloom’s Taxonomy of action verbs can help you come up with measurable goals. For example, instead of saying “’do better’ during the oral exams tomorrow” say, “’be able to enumerate and describe the steps during the tube feeding of hospice patients’ tomorrow”.
You will also improve on gaining and keeping the respect of your team if you come up with attainable and realistic goals. You cannot say, “I would like us to have zero complaints from customers in October,” because customers can complain about anything and some even complain just because they are having a bad day. You and your team cannot stop customers from complaining. What would be within your control, however, are retention rates and compliance. You can even train your team on how to turn an irate customer’s attitude around; so even if customers complain, you and your team will be able to respond appropriately and turn the enraged customer into a satisfied customer.
Your goal should also be time-based, meaning you cannot have the same goal forever. Going back to the example of customer complaints, a time-based goal can simply be stated as, “Retain 20% of our subscribers for 2015 and 30% for 2016”. As you achieve your goals, you can give yourself tougher goals as time goes by.
Finally, the second approach is to have a game plan. You need to know your plan of attack. For example, if the goal is to reach 1 million in sales every month until December, you should know how to reach that 1 million in sales every month until December. It’s true that you should allow your team to have a say in the planning session, but no one will stop you from writing the outline and leaving it up to your team to write the details. A lot of time is wasted on sending email messages back and forth until a reasonable plan is outlined, so before you go to the meeting, have all your cards ready on how much you can spare for a project or how much manpower you can use to delegate. Let your best practices guide you and the rest should come from good goal setting and planning.
Nathan W. Morris said, “It is not always what we need to do more but rather that we need to focus on less.” Instead of spending so much time trying to reach an unknown or unclear goal, first stop and determine what your SMART goals are and how you will go about meeting them. In due time you will find that these two easy concepts really do make the world of difference when it comes to maintaining productivity.